Saturday, November 27, 2010

Before you buy another pink anything....

I'm reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein, and I am absolutely enamored. The books isn't going to be released until Jan 25th....but it should be on your radar...

The book takes an interesting survey of the landscape of girlhood. This book is helping me understand why I feel so sad when I walk past the clothing stores that target pre-teens, and I feel even sadder when I think about how children younger and younger are being targeted in board rooms across the land as a burgeoning demographic of pre-consumers.......(consumers).

I knew I felt skittish about the Little Mermaid...I mean...this is a lady- fish who gives up her voice to be with a dude....or if you really wanna look at it, this is a chick who lost her voice when her legs split. Kinda haunting....(not to mention all the violence directed at Divine....I mean...Ursula)

All these topic are deftly adressed by Orenstein. I must run home to finish it before I wax on....

This author (Peggy-Orenstein) is coming to the store too! I'm sure I'll be writing more when the time comes closer to hosting this exciting, important and necessary read.

In the mean time, I'm buying my niece a copy of The Paper Bag Princess, one of my favorite picture books about a little girl whose worth lies beyond her appearance. This little chicky has agency, and lacks vanity. She also rescues a fella in need. In-deed! Ex-hale!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cheese, compromise, and America: Things you can expect me to blog about in the future.

Hello internets! Thursday is tentatively my day to blog, but last week I buckled under the pressure and skirted the issue on a technicality (I may have faked some heart palpitations. Or maybe they were real, I guess we'll never know).

But here we are, and even though the book store is closed today for this day of Thanks, I can't resist the call of the blogosphere. I never could, I never will. Were it possible, I would liquidate the internet into a hot beverage that I would swirl with a cinnamon stick and take with me into an enormous armchair of an afternoon.

Having almost finished the book The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen, I'm struggling over the last 40 pages or so. Laina, another Booksmithie, told me her father didn't like it when he read it, and when the father in question came in later that night and testified that, indeed, he wasn't fond of the book because he couldn't take the dysfunctional familial relations, I waved him off. While not having a dysfunctional family myself, I was a teenage rebel; I died my hair neon prismacolor shades and pierced the various soft parts of my head and there is no amount of alienation and neurosis I can't stomach. Pshaw, I said. These matters are not for the squeamish. I got this.

Here we are, weeks later, and I'm lagging. I've made it through so much now it would be silly not to finish, but its become chore-like. The characters are difficult, its true, but what mostly gets me is their inability to compromise with each other, which leads to the constant fighting.

This is where my Thanksgiving comes in.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, in my opinion. Not because of the defunct patriotism ("Sorry indigenous peoples of everywhere, our total bad. You don't have any system of land ownership though, so it is kiiiiiind of your fault. Hugs and kisses, Colonialism") but because nothing reaffirms my belief in the power of compromise than an afternoon spent with my wonderful family all in the same room. Most of them are dry, so instead of having the drunk uncle that stands up during dinner and gives everyone a piece of his mind, we have an endless parade of compromise.

We compromise when we do or don't argue with Aunt A that its obvious grandpa should no longer be allowed to drive. We compromise when we don't complain when the inevitable kitchen meltdown occurs, electric utensils are blamed, and pledges are made to Do Better Next Year. I steel myself not to laugh audibly in her face when my grandmother makes another reference to Younger Cousin being potentially mentally disabled when in reality he has a job and lives on his own and has never once given her evidence to that except by not going to college. I don't roll my eyes when Aunt B asks about how school is, I just say that its awesome and boy isn't learning just the best!? My eyes bulge and teeth grind a little, but she buys it.

My point is, the reason my family works is not because nobody has a current drug or alcohol problem, (which, I would like to point out, has not always been the case) nor is it because we all love each other particularly more than other families. Its because we only insist on seeing each other a few times a year and when those times eventually occur we don't ask each other to be people we're not. Compromise. I hope this holiday, everyone took a look around at their families and those beloved to them and accepted them, point blank, without reserve.

To sum:

Things I am thankful for:
1. Cheese, things covered in cheese.
2. Tina Fey.
3. My patient family.
4. Cheese deserves another slot.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Means 25 More Days...

Despite the deceptive weather out there (with such a warm autumn and no snow in's almost December, really?) the time has come to watch Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Family Christmas, Prancer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and a few other holiday classics over and over.  Yahoo!

Trivia...What is Christmas really?
-Pagan holiday originated from Rome
-Day Christians celebrate the birth of Christ
-Celebrations and festivities to brighten the darkness of winter
-Santa Claus and the act of giving gifts
-Decoration of Evergreens and other trees

Actually, according to the History Channel's Christmas unWrapped, it is all of them!  (You really should watch this documentary.  It's such an eye opener.) Here is part 1 out of 5:

I think people get so isolated in their own traditions that they forget what all is out there.   Personal traditions and beliefs are important, but what kind of life are you living when you are ignorant of other cultures? If you are atheist, don't be afraid to pick up a great picturebook on the birth of Christ.  If you are Christian, don't be afraid to read your kids a book on Hanukkah (children's bookseller, Shoshana, highlighted a few titles earlier this week).  Why not read a book on Santa, even if he doesn't visit your house? 'Twas the Night Before Christmas is a great poem in and of itself.  Ultimately, knowing about other religions and viewpoints on life will strengthen your own.  A life lived in a box is no life at all. 

If you don't know where to start, come on in to the children's section.  Our shelves are overflowing with fabulous wintery holiday books.  Over the next three weeks I will share with you my favorite snow/winter books, Santa and fun christmas books, as well as great nativity stories.

Happy Thanksgiving and wonderful festivities that come your way.

Monday, November 22, 2010

29th Holiday Season

It's Monday of Thanksgiving week. The news is mostly about the biggest travel day of the year and full body scans and pat downs. Also, buying online on Thanksgiving Day, end running Black Friday as it's come to be known in consumer/retail land, plus WalMart is open all day Thursday, too. I know some family gatherings can be a bit angst-y and some folks are way too far from home to enjoy familial warmth around a big table filled with turkey and all the trimmings. But, really, what's the deal here?? I live and work retail, but is there no such thing as a day when all commerce ceases in the interest of either a family gathering or a day of blessed solitude or something in between of your choice? I'm disturbed and discouraged by the intensity of the 24/7/365 nature of our culture. As noted in my title, I've been at this for 29 years. It's important to me that we have lots of customers buying lots of books and other goodies for their holiday giving. But it's also important to me that people reflect, commune, turn off all devices, engage in one on one interactions with other humans in the same room, eat slowly and notice/enjoy their food, take a walk, just chill out and be with others in the moment. Okay, you can watch some football but otherwise be present on your Thanksgiving Day. Slow Down, You're Movin' Too Fast, as on oldish song says. Be Here Now, which is the title of a book from a few decades back. Have a wonderful, non-commercial Thanksgiving.

Happy (C)(H)an(n)uk(k)a(h)!

The Festival of Lights, Latkes, and Infinite Spellings starts on December 1 this year. That's soon, friends. Leftover-turkey soon.

We in the kids' section are ready. We've got our favorite gift recommendations organized by age. We've got heads and shelves full of other suggestions on every topic and in every genre. And if you're looking for something that introduces, honors, or even kibitzes the holiday itself, look no further.

You know how Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar has it all? Counting, bright colors, and even holes in the pages for curious little fingers? Emily Sper's Hanukkah: A Counting Book has all that, too, and some Hebrew and Yiddish for good measure. It's basic enough and eye-catching enough to appeal to the youngest readers, and it's also a good introduction for kids of any age who haven't experienced the holiday themselves. The same goes for Hanukkah, Oh, Hanukkah, by Susan Roth, with its singable text and its colorful mice and dreydels.

For readers who've been there and spun that, we have some irreverent offerings. In Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, a visitor uses his cleverness to save a village from, dare I say it, Grinchly goblins. And I suspect that nothing needs to be said beyond this title and author: The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, by Lemony Snicket.

We've got plenty more titles on hand, so come on in!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kate's Holiday helpful tip o' the week!

Why so glum friend?

I'll tell you why. There's food everywhere. Good food. Your pants are not yet elastic and so you must decide what to eat, and how much. This is one of life's pains.

I think exploring our massive cookbook selection is a good way to focus intention on what you are eating. That way you won't be spending as much time as I do in the diet section of the store.

This time of year is tough...but our Christmas/Hanukkah lights are up, and we've got the heat on and some good tunes. It's kinda like a mini vacation to walk the isles. (kinda)

If things are tight this year, head down to our bargain basement...the new home for our Used, Sale and Remainder books.

Treat yourself well this week. Be extra kind to everyone who crosses your path, because you never know if they are the great pumpkin or not.

(I meant angel, yea....angel)

Friday, November 19, 2010


This book I've been recommending hopelessly for almost a decade. It's about the first expedition, in the 1950's, to ever reach the top of an 8,000 meter peak. It's written, originally in French, by the expedition leader, Maurice Herzog. The horrific frostbite suffered on a disastrous descent cost him, oh I don't recall exactly, but something on the order of 43 toes, half a dozen legs, and two of his noses. And his best pipe. The tale is astounding. It begins in the lowlands, with the arduous hiring of some eighty five thousand locals who are willing to haul 1,400 lbs of equipment on each of their backs, probably including chests full of their native coin with which they will be paid each day they survive on these slopes which they generally avoid because, well, they aren't mad. It ends, as you now know, with Herzog relating how nice the nurses are as they massage the blood back into his elbows and knees. I mean, his extremities.

But the middle part, oh the brief, high middle part.

As Herzog approaches the summit; as his oxygen-starved brain tries to reckon with where he is about to stand, the prose flies free. As his steps, slowed to the pace of perhaps one every twenty seconds, bring him closer to the literal pinnacle of human exploration, it's like the man's soul leaps into the air and off the page.

That middle part is one of the very best things I've ever read, and it is the one and only account that has ever made me want to leave behind the comfortable little rocks and pebbles I have scaled with my tight pointy boots and set foot on the path to the high, cold, pointy places which scratch the outer rim of our world.

And all these years the book has been out of print. I've told thirty or forty customers that they must keep an eye out for this book that they have never heard of, and then, then, today a woman comes in search of this very book. LA LA LA LA LAAAA! (choruses of angels) "Oh, Annapurna, I can't believe you are asking for that book, oh goodness it is one of my very favorite books! " And I look it up as I tell her that it is so long out of print...Wh-wh-what!?!?! It's on our shelves. It. is. here. again.

That's all.

Oh, and there's an old playground slide in Newton that is just over twice my height. I turned around and saw my four year old boy walking up it with no hands, and Herzog's narrative sprung to mind. Except Herzog had no hands on the way down, so I guess it's not really the same.

don't judge a book by know

So can I talk for a minute about reading on the T?

For several weeks I was trying to slog through Obama's Wars. Nothing against the book, but it was pretty dense and not exactly the read I was expecting. But I loved carrying it on the T -- even though I disliked reading it -- because everyone would see me reading Obama's Wars and think, somehow, that I was erudite and political and clearly a smart lady. I remember a situation in which three men in Army fatigues got on, and I literally was so excited to convey the message that I was reading Obama's Wars that I tried extra-extra-hard to make my book cover visible.

When I finished that one, it was on to Living Dead in Dallas, the second book in the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series. Oh boy! I am a major fan of True Blood, which is based on the book series, and I was itching to read the semi-trashy, pulpy novel. "But no!" I thought to myself. "The only time I have to read is on the T! I can't read Living Dead in Dallas on the T! People will see me! GAHHH!" Upon deciding that not reading the book was not an option, I hid the cover as best I could in my lap.

And now I'm reading Tommy's Tale, the self-proclaimed "Queer as Folk meets About A Boy", which features a pair of splayed male legs falling out of a bathtub. (They're attached to said male, of course -- it's not a slasher novel -- but all you can see is the legs.) Now I feel like people are looking at my book cover and thinking that I am reading some party-hard, not-literary, trash. (I also feel this way when I come to sex scenes in books I'm reading on the T -- suddenly embarrassed and quite furtive.)

So I was thinking about my issues with T reading, and why I was so concerned that other people would care about what I was reading. "Self," I said to myself, "when was the last time YOU noticed what someone else was reading on the T?" And the honest answer is -- never.

So I just need to get over my reading-on-the-T complex and display my book covers proudly, whatever they may be. But I know that sometimes I may still hope that people are taking more notice of the "I Love Brookline Booksmith" pin on my bag than they are of my choice of reading material.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Than Turkey

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is a week from tomorrow? While looking at our Thanksgiving table -- complete with books, little turkeys, chocolates, and more -- I noticed that I've never read many Thanksgiving books. The holiday comes and goes so fast with even bigger ones coming up that they have always escaped. I must admit that holiday books, for the most part, are either great or just eh. I was surprised at a few books though.

The first, It's Thanksgiving, by Jack Prelutsky, which is a great book of poems. Whether you are a person who can't eat on Thanksgiving or has over-eaten, for watchers of football and parades, right down to the repetition of leftovers, there is a poem for everyone in this book and they were all fun to read, too.

Sarah Morton's Day, by Katie Waters, isn't actually about Thanksgiving, but the the life of a pilgrim girl. I liked it because it is relevant to Thanksgiving, but it gives other food for thought -- especially after reading books on the same Turkey event over and over. Even though we live near the same soil as pilgrims here in Massachusetts, life was sure different!

"It takes all kinds of pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving." I was glad I finally got around to reading Molly's Pilgrim, written by Barbara Cohen.  Molly is a Jewish-Russian immigrant who doesn't speak English very well. Yet, as the first Thanksgiving nears, she learns that she too is a pilgrim. Thanksgiving is more about feasting and peace-making; it is about finding religious freedom.

In regards to factual books, If You Were at the First Thanksgiving, by Anne Kamma, is a great Q&A book for kids who already know the ins and outs of Thanksgiving.  Susan Sloat's Pardon That Turkey also gives a plethora of interesting facts about this November holiday we have celebrated for hundreds of years.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fainting couches and courting candles

There's a book on our shelves that seems to have been written just for me. It's one of those books filled with little bits of trivia and information that you don't have to read in just one sitting. Some people (who I live with) say it's good bathroom reading but that's all I'll say about that. It's called "Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By."

I LOVE old things. I love flea markets and Turner Classic Movies and used books. Anything with a past or some history is right up my alley. So I find this book a lot of fun. If I were me, I'd love to get this for Christmas.

Opening the book at random I find gaslit streetlamps, garden parties and gemstone engagement rings. All three worthy of being brought back into our modern life. Though I would argue that gemstone engagement rings are already back as I am wearing one on my finger. Other entries in the book include mini-biographies of old film stars (hooray for Myrna Loy!) and notable yet perhaps forgotten cultural figures like Diana Vreeland, the head of Vogue Magazine from 1962 to 1971. There's even a recipe for the original Girl Scout cookies, circa 1922, which were baked by Scouts at home and sold door to door for about $.25 a box. Yum!

Here are a few things Ms. Blume and I agree should be brought back: Polaroid cameras, dressing for your shape (as opposed to going with the latest fads,) attention spans, mahogany telephone booths in hotel lobbies, the word "masher" (which can be heard regularly in movies from the 30's and 40's,) notions departments in department stores, skating parties and grasshoppers. The drink. But there is so, so much more in this little book.

And since I've got to go I'll leave you with the famous words of Edward R. Murrow, good night and good luck.

Monday, November 15, 2010

fitters for the urban

Um....check out this company, "the frantic meerkat" (yes we have these magnets and no , I'm not good at linking....lay off soldier!) Anyway, on to the weirdest coolest cheapest gifts in town...

I want, nay, NEED people to understand how dependent I am on our Card & Gift room for the affordable luxury I think of as expendable fashion. Without fail I spend a healthy chunk of my income on all my gifty needs at this store. It's easy to do, and I feel like my money is not going to some faceless megacorp that is pushing a liberal agenda sartorially, then backing right wing fundementalisms. My money is going to local artists, and funky small start-ups.
Kerri, our gift buyer doesn't use a vaguely creepy MBA formula to predict, or project the trends that people of my regional /socioeconomic and otherwise-ilk are going to want to buy, she just knows her community and what we dig. I also think she may be some type of witch, and I have it on GOOD authority that she watches all of Brookline sleep. So there's that.

I'm so proud of our card and gift room. It is the great equalizer. If you are loaded and can buy diamonds, you'll find something unique and edgy that Zales can't offer. If you're concerned that the price of Ramen is creeping up, you'll find something CHEAP and gorgeous.

Consider checking us out for your jewelry and gifty-card needs this season. There's no skinny jean requirement to work or shop here...we're cheaper, we wrap... and oh yea....our books are pretty sexy too.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Great Houses and Other Buildings of High Quality

I love our events series. And okay, yes, I am biased. But if I could just take each of you by the hand and pull you in for an hour, I think you'd be sold.

This past Friday, we had the National Book Award Finalist Nicole Krauss (and about 170 of her devoted fans) come into the store, and it made for a wonderful evening. If you were there, thank you for coming. If you weren't, I'm sorry you missed it.

But I'd still like to give you a little glimpse. So, because it's what I've already got written down, here's my introduction with a little bit about the reading as well:

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for coming out to support your local independent. My name is Evan Perriello, and I'm the Events Director here at the Booksmith.

Before we get started, we will have sales and signings upstairs, and I hope you will check out our wonderful upcoming events. Tomorrow we're hosting an afternoon tea with local YA author Mitali Perkins. On Monday, Brookline-born Isreali journalist David Hazony will be here for his new book on the Ten Commandments. And on Tuesday, we've got Matt Taibbi for his new expose of the Grifter class.

We're also selling tickets for January events with Kim Edwards and Karen Armstrong, and on Tuesday we’ll start selling tickets for an event with comedian Patton Oswalt.

You can follow our events through our weekly email, facebook, and twitter.

Tonight I am proud, thrilled, and more than a little nervous to be introducing one of the most exciting writers working today, Nicole Krauss. Krauss is the author of two previous novels, including the best- selling, Orange-prize shortlisted History of Love.

She’s here tonight on the last stop of her tour to talk about her newest novel: Great House—a series of narratives linked by a large desk with many drawers that passes between owners and between continents. It is a haunting look at the many ways we face inexplicable loss and longing, the ways we try to reclaim order. And as you’ve probably heard from everyone you know, it’s an astonishing, wonderful read that hits like a beautiful sucker punch—robbing you of air and making you feel more deeply the beat of your heart. Not to mention that, in five days time, it may be the winner of the 2010 National Book Award. We’re cheering you on, by the way.

But for right now, I hope you’ll join me in giving a giant Brookline welcome to Nicole Krauss."

One reason I love these events so much is because you get to see what normal people even the most extraordinary writers are. And while Nicole Krauss was not superhuman, she was kind, thoughtful, and seemed pleasantly surprised by her own success. A bit self-deprecating, a bit of a nerd (she spoke about reading her son, 4 1/2 years old, the Odyssey and how he compared himself to a Greek god after helping out with housework). She took her time with each person in the signing line, and she obviously loved being able to talk with people who have connected with her work. In many of the books she signed, she also wrote "Thank you."

In speaking about her work, she was considered, but also wary of over-explanation--not, I think, because she wanted to withhold her process, but because there's a point at which it becomes inexplicable: the connections that show themselves without conscious crafting. She spoke of creating distinct narratives that interacted through their proximity, rooms that taken together make up the Great House. She starts with voices and follows them where they'll lead.

One person asked her if she read while she wrote, and what she read, and she said she'd sooner give up writing than reading, that she was a reader first and foremost.

The book she chose--we offer our visiting readers a book--was the newly published letters of Saul Bellow. But when I brought it up to her, she said, "Oh, no, it's so big. I'll choose a smaller one," and she motioned to the paperback tables. When I told her it was really okay, she was hesitant, but grateful. "You're really sure?"

And with that, a writer who is in the running for one of the most prestigious awards in the country went back to normal life--to visit with family, to read, to write, to the majority of her days that are spent not in front of full-packed crowds, but in front of her children and in front of a desk (large with many drawers? Who can say?).

Not superhuman, but certainly extraordinary.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

in a rut

So, I don't know if you've noticed, but Booksmith has this enormous box of free books at the top of the stairs to the Used Book Cellar. The book is called Rut and it's published by the Concord Free Press.

The concept behind the Concord Free Press is that -- surprise! -- all of its books are free. You can request a book from their website (or come into the Booksmith and pick one up), and they'll ship it to you for free. In exchange for the free book, you're supposed to give money to a charity or a person in need, and then pass the book along so that someone else can do the same. You then record your donation on so that the company can keep track of it. They bill themselves as "a new kind of publishing," and their motto is "Free their books so their minds will know."

I am never one to pass up a free book, so I've taken my copy of Rut and am now about 30 pages in. It's pretty good, actually, and to fulfill my end of the deal I gave $5 to a man named Joseph who was sitting outside the Kenmore T stop the other night, wrapped in a big sheet of carpet padding. Then I told Concord Free Press about it, and now I'm telling you.

I really love this new idea of publishing, and while I know it won't replace the traditional method (or the new method of e-publishing), it's actually pretty neat. We've still got a big box of copies of Rut, so come in, pick yours up, and feel like a radical.

UPDATE: The box has mysteriously disappeared!! I am currently looking into why this should be. Check back soon. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bear Hunt Time

Watch this story.

Familiar, eh? (And he actually is this animated in person.) Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury's rendition Going on a Bear Hunt remains to be a staple on the bookshelves of children and toddlers. So many kids have sung this song in daycares and scout troops. But what I love about this retelling is Rosen's brilliant sounds and actions of "swishy, swashy" and "squelch, squerch." Along with Oxenbury's illustrations, it is a captivating story that you can really get in to on the first read as well as the hundredth.

Check out their most recent books:
Michael Rosen (and Kevin Waldron)'s Tiny Little Fly
Have you ever wanted to catch that pesky fly that lands on your ear and nose? So does the tramping elephant roaming around, the filthy rolling hippo, and the snatchful winking tiger. Like Bear Hunt, this book is great for younger children and the sounds and actions you could do with this picturebook might be just as great.

Helen Oxenbury (and John Burningham)'s There's Going to be a Baby
This little boy is anticipating the arrival of a new sibling. But what will he or she be like? If it's a boy then his name should be "Peter or Spider-Man." If he grows up to be a chef, "I don't think I'd eat anything that was made by the baby." The swirls of opinions and questions this boy has will coincide with listeners who have the same predicament. Who is this new baby and what do I do with it?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let There Be Letters

As the world of communication goes more and more into the ether, I'm very concerned about letters, physical letters written by one person to another. Volumes of letters have been a big literary genre all of my 38 bookselling years and for eons before. What will become of them? How will we know people and events in the unique ways available through letters written on paper and saved. Somehow collected emails don't have the same heft and depth. Maybe that will be okay with everyone going forward. Not me, though. It's not going to be okay with me.

I'm reminded of this concern since we just got in a new book of Saul Bellow's letters, entitled (wait for it) "Saul Bellow : Letters". He has actually been a customer of ours! This is a wonderful, enlightening volume. I love learning the thoughts, history, process and personal writing style of beloved authors this way.

Herewith part of a favorite poem of my husband's. It's from A.A. Milne's "Now We Are Six", a lovely little volume if you don't know it. From "The Knight Whose Armour Didn't Squeak":

"Of all the Knights in Appledore
The wisest was Sir Thomas Tom
He multiplied as far as four,
And knew what nine was taken from
To make eleven. He could write
A letter to another Knight."

Good job, Sir Tom!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

seasonal self-care...won't you join me?

I've been waiting to use this image in my weekly chitter-chat, and today just feels right. We are officially at the top of the pain roller coaster referred to as the "holidays". The time of year when you get real close with your therapist, revisit old addictions, cry, go deeply into debt and resolve to fix the aforementioned hullabaloo. I want none of it this year. This year I am going to do this thing differently. This is the year ,as Dr. Oz would say, "the year of self-care". I am going to make a menu of ways to avoid the fevered hell that is late November to mid February.

Gift reduction.

Everyone on my list is getting a used or discount book. (you're welcome)
If you are on my list and lucky I may make you some neat-erific infused gin thing, it's cheap and useful.


I am going to work long and weird hours avoiding family functions. (soothing)


I am going to start weight lifting, and dropping the weights, and grunting. OR. I am going to take up sewing.


I am going to use lotion this winter. I will spend too long at CVS deciding between Dove and Olay. I am going to use my extra care bucks. (p-a-r-t-y-t-o-w-n)

I am going to see Amy Sedaris...and learn more poor people crafting techniques.


I am going to enjoy Turkey Day. (yes I know what we did to the indigenous peoples of this continent, but you can't take this one shrapnel of joy from me today.)

I'm going to go to my brother's house, teach the kids to whittle and swear. Then, I shall eat and drink too much. I will arise the next morn and purge it out during a "5k turkey trot of contrition."

Let us be strong together. We can get through this. I know we can.

Just give the gift of cheap books...(and maybe some infused gin)

that's what the holidays are about. new ideas. and forgetting them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

warning: graphic (novel) content!

So, I know that I am terribly late to this particular party, but I just finished reading Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which came out in 2006 and was immediately nominated for every book award ever to exist.

If you had told me, even a year ago, that I was not only going to read a graphic novel but finish it and want to read it all over again, I would have told you to get real. Graphic novels? Pshaw. A fancy name for comic books, and I grew out of comic books when I realized that Betty was never going to triumph over Veronica, back when I was about...oh...eight years old. So, year-ago me would have told you NO. I am not going to read a graphic novel. I am fully grown out of picture books.

Ah, but now, after reading Fun Home, I am converted. Bring on the graphic novels (the well-written ones, anyway -- just like I don't want to read a bad novel, I don't want to read a bad graphic novel). Pile graphic novels in front of my door and lock me in my room until I have read them all. I will do so with a happy heart and a smile on my face.

Hyperbole and triteness aside, I really did adore Fun Home. The storyline is as complex and delicious as any well-loved novel. Bechdel chronicles her somewhat tumultuous relationship with her late father, slowly discovering his homosexuality -- and her own -- over the course of the memoir. Only a few weeks after Bruce Bechdel comes out to his daughter, he is hit and killed by a truck -- whether his death was accidental or intentional is for the reader, and Bechdel herself, to figure out. What juice! What depth! Bechdel's chronology is wonderful and twisted -- we know of her father's death and potential homosexuality before the book really digs into the meat of the text. Bechdel also dialogues extensively with other texts and authors, including The Odyssey, Ulysses, The Importance of Being Earnest, Fitzgerald, Camus, and Proust, and does so gracefully.

Bechdel's skilled, thoughtful illustrations added immensely to her text. They don't just illustrate moments in the text -- although some do exactly that. They, instead, dialogue with the text itself; there's a wonderful sequence in which the text is discussing Oscar Wilde and his encoding of homosexuality in The Importance of Being Earnest, and the illustrations are of a community theater group rehearsing for the same play. Speech bubbles coming out of characters' mouths are indicative of the text above: it's hard to describe with no image, but in one panel, the caption text reads Then Wilde was tried for committing indecent acts and sent to prison while both The Importance and The Ideal Husband were playing to full houses. In the accompanying illustration, the director instructs the actors to "take it from 'please don't touch.'" Aghh! My little English major heart goes pitter-pat.

As worried as I was that the illustrations would make it seem as if I were reading a comic book, Fun Home is anything but. Some illustrations are quite adult; there are depictions of dead bodies and lesbian sex, and there is nudity throughout. And they're skillfully done; facial expressions are lovely, and Bechdel draws in different styles depending on what she's depicting -- maps, photographs, or real-life moments. And the final illustration brought a lump to my throat.

So, bringing it back to me (as always!), it's like Evan wrote a few weeks ago -- try something that you don't think you're into, be it Booksmith events or graphic novels or anything in between. I fully plan on devouring the next Bechdel material I can get my hot little hands on, and I definitely recommend Fun Home as a starter graphic novel for anyone who thinks they might be even slightly interested in the genre.


P.S. We're having a graphic novel author right here at Booksmith at the end of the month! On November 29, at 7 PM, Phoebe Potts will be reading from her new novel Good Eggs, which deals with her journey on the road to motherhood. Come in and try graphic novels out for yourself!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thought of the Day

A book, as a noun, is a bunch of papers bound together. However, I prefer books as verbs, where they serve as a window to see what another person's life is like; or, as a mirror, where the reader can see someone else's experience on the same issues that they are going through. And, whether you are looking at yourself or out into the world, you are exploring the human condition.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Doonesbury Turns 40

And I, 62, about the same age as Garry Trudeau. I began reading his work as a Viet Nam War protester college student back in the day. He has always been an important voice in my life, chronicling major cultural and political shifts since 1970 in more than 14,000 strips. The acuity and wit with which he does so never lessens. Andrews McMeel Publishing has just released "40: A Doonesbury Retrospective". It's a superb tome affording a unique way to experience the amazing depth and complexity of one of the greatest comic strips ever. There's a wonderful introduction by Garry who seldom talks about his work. He'll be out in the media scrum for this book, another rarity. I will be enjoying this anniversary and reflecting on my much younger, then somewhat older, then even older self in the meantime.